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Should high school students grade their teachers?

HS journalism: North Cedar junior offers her opinion on the topic

CLARENCE — Do you think it’s fair that every day teachers grade students on their performance, but students never get to grade their teachers?

At the end of the year, when a couple of teachers hand out their teacher evaluations, students usually groan. It seems pointless because they can usually assume it was just something they were forced to do. Instead of groaning, students should be thankful their teachers are asking for their input.

I think students should be able and willing to grade their teachers because teachers act different when administrators evaluate them, college students evaluate their professors and, most importantly, students can have input to help make their education experience better.

Anytime somebody is evaluating you and taking notes on your performance, you will instinctively try to show your best self. Student evaluations can show or display what teachers are like every day. Not all teachers act differently when evaluated, but it can be an instinctive reaction and, therefore, student evaluations can be more objective.

In Amanda Ripley’s The Atlantic article “Why Kids Should Grade Teachers,” she writes about Harvard economist Ronald Ferguson, who suggested the idea of teachers being evaluated by the people who see them every day — their students. A special teacher performance survey was designed and taken by nearly a quarter million students in the United States in 2012, according to Ripley’s article. Ferguson noted the survey answers were more reliable than any other measure of teacher performance — specifically classroom observations.

The concept of students evaluating their teachers is by no means a new concept considering colleges and universities have been performing them for years.

Near the end of each semester, professors are required to leave the room while a student or a member of the college staff hands out evaluations for each student. Professor Carla Green, an adjunct for Kirkwood Community College, explained the questions on the evaluation ask students if they completed the assignments and felt they did well on the assignment. Another question is about the syllabus. Did you have access to the syllabus? Was the syllabus followed? In the areas of teaching there are questions on whether or not the student felt assignments were explained clearly and if they received feedback from the assignments. The last part of the evaluation is on content. Questions here are about the quality of assignments or materials or if some material should be changed or dropped.

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This evaluation process is to give professors feedback on the way they teach or their delivery of their content and how they should improve the following semester. Professors will receive these student responses in an email with a collection of anonymous responses after the course grades have been submitted and recorded. There are other less formal evaluations like “Rate My Professor.” On this website, students can leave responses and their feelings of their professors. The responses tend to lean toward bashing of a professor.

If colleges are using student evaluations, why can’t it be dropped a level to high school or lower? By using student evaluations, students can have more input in their classes and the learning styles that fits them best.

The reason students come to school is to better themselves and prepare for their future. The job of a teacher is to insure he or she does everything possible to help students toward that goal. By allowing students to have input into their class and letting the teacher know how to teach in a way that is best for their students is such a great resource. Students can feel more comfortable knowing their teacher is really trying to help them.

Students feel even more valued when the suggestions or comments they make are put into action or improved upon by the teacher. A younger humanities teacher, Leila Campbell, received her results from the evaluations her students at Aspire Lionel Wilson Preparatory Academy in Oakland, Calif. She scored well in many sections of the survey. but when interviewed said, “I wasn’t scoring where I wanted to with questions like ‘I feel comfortable asking my teacher for help’ or ‘My teacher really cares about me.’ I was below average, and I don’t want to be below average.”

As a result, she changed some of her techniques and tried to open up to her students more about her experiences in school and college and trying to relate to them. Her scores in the areas where she was once lower have now gone up due to her evaluations.

“The surveys have been transformational in how I operate,” she said. “I’ve grown tremendously from this data.”

Despite the many positive reasons for teacher evaluations by students, there are those who believe otherwise.

The main issue the opposition is students will be immature and biased in their grading. If a teacher gave them a bad grade, the student will in turn give them a bad grade or feedback. Students will grade primarily on the teacher’s personality rather than how the class material is delivered and the class environment as a whole.

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David Pawlowski, principal of the Alexandria Middle School, told John Mooney for his article entitled “Should Students Grade their Teachers?” published on Hechinger Report website, “I’m not sure that children have enough knowledge about pedagogy to evaluate teachers. That gets into a tricky area.”

There is a lot of research to go against this opposition.

All students are smart enough to effectively evaluate their teachers when given the right questions. Certain questions will provoke biased and immature answers. However, with well-developed surveys, teachers can receive helpful feedback from their students and learn to improve. Fortunately there already are such surveys like the ones developed by Panorama Education and Ronald Ferguson mentioned before. Both online surveys assess a wide variety of factors of each teacher’s technique or deliverance, rather than popularity contest. With these properly formed evaluations, all ages of students are able to properly grade their teachers.

From the article “Students Evaluating Teachers” by Scott LaFee — from The School Superintendents Association website — Project Voyce co-founder said “Project Voyce conducted its first student perception surveys four years ago in an 800-student high school with a 98 percent free and reduced lunch Hispanic student body. There were more than 1,200 open-ended questions in which students were free to ‘talk trash’ about their teachers. Out of that total, there were exactly zero trash talk responses. Lesson learned: If you give students buy-in, give them the respect that is often missing, they’ll respond with respect.”

The best way teachers can be evaluated is through well-developed surveys completed by their students. By completing and implementing teacher evaluations in high school levels and lower, student and teacher relationships can improve and, more importantly, students will feel comfortable in their classes and hopefully in turn do better in school.

So the next time a teacher instructs a student to complete an evaluation for them, the student should keep in mind the teacher is doing this to better themselves for their student’s education and the student should use the opportunity to give effective feedback.

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